Solar hot water panels are a great energy-saving device for your home, and can currently be
purchased and installed for a very reasonable cost (Up North Energy offers a complete 2 panel solar
thermal system for less than $3,000). Solar hot water systems harness the limitless energy from the
sun and use it to heat your hot water tank, which is an environmentally friendly and cost-effective way
to provide hot water to your home. In general, the solar thermal system will easily heat water to 140ºF
or higher thus matching the range of its traditional, fossil fuel hot water tank counterpart. A SRCC
approved, high quality flat plate solar collector system can effectively collect up to 70 percent of the
sun's energy that reaches them and efficiently use it to heat hot water.
The history of solar water heating can be traced back as far as the 1800s, when people in the United
States placed metal water tanks on their roof and painted them black to absorb as much sunlight as
possible. From these primitive contraptions, solar hot water steadily developed over the years, with
solar panels replacing roof-mounted tanks as the preferred heating device.
Solar water heating systems became particularly in demand at times of fuel shortages, such as the
oil crisis in the 1970s. With concerns over climate change and dwindling reserves of fossil fuels, there
is a sense that the world is now entering another such period of fuel scarcity, and thus solar water
heating is now considered a sensible and important solution for homeowners everywhere.
How does it Work?
Solar water heating systems use roof-fitted solar panels that are known as collectors. These gather
energy from the sun and use it to heat water, which then travels through the water tank in a coil of
pipes (called the heat exchanger) and gives up its heat to the water stored in the tank. The (now cold)
water that has passed through the heat exchanger is channeled back to the collector, which then
heats the water to begin the process all over again. The system is kept running by an electric pump,
which keeps the water flowing between the collector and the water tank.
Sunlight is limitless and free, so once you've purchased and installed a solar water heating system
you won't have to worry about fuel costs, and your heating bill will be dramatically reduced. Modern
solar hot water systems are affordably priced. With the savings you will make on heating bills and
the money you receive from the federal government 30% tax credit, it is very realistic to expect a full
return on your investment within five years.
Another big plus is that modern solar panels aren't restricted to hot climates, and they will work
all year round, even on relatively moderate, overcast days. In places with mild climates you'll still
probably need a boiler or immersion heater as a back up to your solar water system, but you should
only really need it for the winter months.
Solar hot water is a green, renewable heating system, and installing such a system will cause a real
decrease in your annual carbon footprint.
The basic components in home solar heating systems include:
• Collectors to take the heat from the sun and pass it to a fluid
• The heat transfer fluid which takes the heat from the collector for use or storage
• Heat exchangers to transfer the heat from the fluid to a home’s domestic water.
• Pumps to move the fluid through the collector and/or the exchanger, and sometimes to move the
domestic water through the other side of the exchanger.
• Controllers to run the pumps when there is collector heat available.
Below is a detailed schematic that lists the features and benefits of Up North Energy’s flat plate solar
system integrated with an Effecta Lambda wood gasification boiler: